Tag Archives: megabanks

If the Fed Knows Banks Are Too Big, Why Doesn’t It Make Them Smaller?

By James Kwak

The Federal Reserve is serious—about something.

On May 2, The Wall Street Journal reported that regulators were pushing to require “very large banks to hold higher levels of capital,” including minimum levels of unsecured long-term debt, as part of an effort “to force banks to shrink voluntarily by making it expensive and onerous to be big and complex.” The article quoted Fed Governor Jeremy Stein, who said, “If after some time it has not delivered much of a change in the size and complexity of the largest of banks, one might conclude that the implicit tax was too small, and should be ratcheted up” (emphasis added). 

A few days later, Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo said roughly the same thing (emphasis added):

“‘The important question is not whether capital requirements for large banking firms need to be stronger than those included in Basel III and the agreement on capital surcharges, but how to make them so,’ said Mr. Tarullo, adding later that even with those measures in place it ‘would leave more too-big-to-fail risk than I think is prudent.‘”

Tarullo recommended higher capital requirements and long-term debt requirements for systemically risky financial institutions.

Last week, Governor of Governors Ben Bernanke quoted from the same talking points (emphasis added):

“Mr. Bernanke said the Fed could push banks to maintain a higher leverage ratio, hold certain types of debt favored by regulators, or other steps to give the largest firms a ‘strong incentive to reduce their size, complexity, interconnectedness.’

“The Fed chairman acknowledged growing concerns that some financial companies remain so big and complex the government would have to step in to prevent their collapse and said more needs to be done to eliminate that risk.”

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Should Megabanks Be Broken Apart? (NYT Room For Debate)

By Simon Johnson.  This material was prepared as part of the New York Times’ Room for Debate on “Should Mega-Banks Be Broken Apart“?  I strongly recommend the post by Anat Admati.

Writing in the Washington Post, in November 2009, Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JP Morgan Chase, argued:

“Creating the structures to allow for the orderly failure of a large financial institution starts with giving regulators the authority to facilitate failures when they occur. Under such a system, a failed bank’s shareholders should lose their value; unsecured creditors should be at risk and, if necessary, wiped out. A regulator should be able to terminate management and boards and liquidate assets. Those who benefited from mismanaging risks or taking on inappropriate risk should feel the pain.”

But the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation does not create a “resolution mechanism” that can deal with cross-border megabanks; this point is admitted by all involved. And there is nothing in the G20 process or underway with any other international forum that would make a difference in this regard. Continue reading